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In the rush to find a viable treatment option for COVID-19 patients, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hope to have found at least one solution.
Researchers at the university's Gillings School of Global Public Health developed a potential antiviral treatment they claim “shows promise in reducing lung damage” in those infected with the novel virus.
The antiviral treatment, EIDD-2801, was tested in mice infected with both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The drug was also tested on cultured human lung cells infected with SARS-CoV-2, according to a news release from UNC at Chapel Hill.
The researchers found that the antiviral treatment, which can be administered in a pill form, prevented severe lung infection in mice when used as a prophylactic.
“When given as a treatment 12 or 24 hours after infection has begun, EIDD-2801 can reduce the degree of lung damage and weight loss in mice,” the news release stated. “This window of opportunity is expected to be longer in humans because the period between coronavirus disease onset and death is generally extended in humans compared to mice.”
Theoretically, the drug could be used both as a prophylactic, or a preventative for those who may have been exposed to the novel virus but are not yet showing signs, and when treating less-ill patients, the researchers said.
The team’s initial findings were published online earlier this week by the journal Science Translational Medicine. The drug is expected to move to human clinical trials later this spring.
“With three novel human coronaviruses emerging in the past 20 years, it is likely that we will continue to see more,” first author Timothy Sheahan said in a statement. “EIDD-2801 holds promise to not only treat COVID-19 patients today but to treat new coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.”